The adrenal glands are a pair of small glands located on top of each kidney that produce hormones essential for bodily functions. Each adrenal gland consists of two main parts: the outer layer called the adrenal cortex and the inner part called the adrenal medulla.
The adrenal cortex produces several hormones, including cortisol, which helps regulate metabolism, blood sugar levels, and the body’s response to stress, and aldosterone, which helps regulate salt and water balance in the body. The adrenal cortex also produces small amounts of other hormones, such as androgens and estrogen.
The adrenal medulla produces two hormones, epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline), which are released in response to stress. These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, and help the body respond to a stressful situation by preparing for the “fight or flight” response.
Dysfunction of the adrenal glands can lead to various medical conditions. Adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s disease, occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones, causing symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and low blood pressure. On the other hand, overproduction of hormones from the adrenal glands can cause conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by weight gain, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The adrenal glands can also be affected by tumors, both benign and malignant. Adrenal tumors can overproduce hormones, leading to hormonal imbalances and related symptoms, or they can cause symptoms by compressing nearby organs.
Diagnosis of adrenal disorders typically involves blood tests to measure hormone levels and imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI to evaluate the adrenal glands. Treatment of adrenal disorders depends on the specific condition and may include medications to regulate hormone levels, surgery to remove tumors or damaged tissue, or hormone replacement therapy for adrenal insufficiency.